THE FIRST CONVERSATION IN THE HISTORY ON THAI TYPEWRITER
AN INTERVIEW WITH A TYPEWRITING CLERK



One day I together with 4 Ė 5 friends walked nearby to the office and heard some slight striking in the room rather frequently. It made me stop all of a sudden and wondering what it was. The striking was even more frequent. I turned to my friends accompanying me to get the idea as to whatís all the sound of striking was all about. No one could answer to this question, though. So curious as to whatís all about of the striking sound in the office I told my friend to proceed without me. I would like to stop by to verify what this strange noise is all about. So I walked towards the sound which led me through. Coincidentally when I arrived to the room I met a person to whom I was acquainted and saw a few people sitting on the chair striking up and down the same as striking with a musical instrument.



I asked the man I knew if I could approach which he said replied positively. First when I reached near I thought they were striking the musical instrument called ďPianoĒ. But itís a wonder that how come there were no low and high sound from the unit but only faintly striking sound. Approaching near to the machine, I asked man who was doing it ďWhatíre you doing?Ē He replied striking typewriter. So I continued asking him just what a typewriter was all about. He said itís a writing machine and pointed to the characters attached to the paper taken out from the roller. Oh, thatís nice character like large scale printing. So I asked him to strike 4 Ė 5 times continuously until the bell ring was heard. After doing so he turned and made sound with the roller and lift the paper up to look. The result was characters in a line so surprising. Itís quite a wonder to achieve writing of one line with so unbelievably rapid time and so finely neat. So I asked him could he not write that he had to do writing by striking by the machine like this. He said of course he could write but itís slow which even made me more wonder. For the reason that I was also a book worm myself and had never had this experience. Being afraid that asking too many questions would make him unable to answer so I asked the striker that for writing of ďone page of foolscap paper how long would it take?Ē. He replied comfortably he could make 80 pages and in case of a real hurry he could make 80 words per minutes of typing. Sure? Yes, indeed he said. Look over the report I made on the black board over there. I looked up and saw some writing in the table with corresponding dates and number of pages of 75-87-71-89- and was quite convinced that what I was told must have been true. So I turned to ask how many hours did he work. He said 6 hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thatís sound tiring. Donít you every take a break to breathe? He said he stopped to chew betel palm nut, smoke, and lunch for total of about half an hour. So I stood up and thought for half an hour if we could write fairly 80 pages then one hour was 14 pages then compare it with steady writing I was making about 3 pages an hour by handwriting. This is quite unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable!!! To say it bluntly I was afraid it would offend him. If I donít say it out then I would be curious if this was true or not. So I said would you be so kind to show it to me. I really like to see. Make it say about an hour I will watch. He agreed and so he started striking continuously. I tried to observe as to which keys he stricken but I could hardly observe. It was stricken repeatedly and I counted the pages he made. When one hour was up the counting was 15 pages less one line. Oh my, thatís really true. Itís so wonderful. Letís not delay. Go buy one for our minors at home to practice. But I didnít have enough knowledge and kind of wonder that if there was a need to make many copies, for example we could make 3 copies together with the original making 4 copies probably faster by hand than striking the typewriter. So I communicated this understanding with the clerk, he said oh no, I could make copies up to 5, and no need to use copying ink and no need to wet you hand with the water. I strike once and get five copies but on the 5th copy it might be a little hard to see for people with eye-glasses but for the young no problem, might as well be fun. So I asked him how he handled the copying process. Probably he was afraid that I would not believe him by only his words so he picked up paper soiled with black ink and showed it to me. On striking on the 5 layers of copies we could truly make 5 copies clearly and that made me even more astonished. So I continued asking further questions for information as to its kind, its make, place of sale, and whatís the price. The clerk replied that the kind of the typewriter he was striking was ďSmith premierĒ made in Syracuse Sub-District, New York City, United Stated of America.



It was imported by the missionary for sale for the price of 320 Baht. For bulk purchase the price will be cheaper for 240 Baht. I asked if itís so easily available. He replied in the very beginning itís rather rare. Only second-handed ones were for sale. In some place they were cheap but out of order. So I asked him the machine he was using how durable was it. He said the work he had was probably the heaviest one. Although the typewriter was made of steel but not so much time for break was given. Normal working hours from 11 p.m. to 5 p.m. But thatís rare because usually workload will be like this for about 2 days only during the week. The rest of the week typewriters were put to work for at least 10 hours minimum. Specially early Rattankosin Year 113 these typewriters were never free. So I asked him further as to the kind of typewriter which would benefit most. He said useful typewriter would have the following qualifications : 1.Capable of working efficiently and meeting speeding demand; 2.Made strong, rugged, durable and fit for rapid use as well as many times worthwhile its cost 3.The unit is capable of working all day long without any disruption 4.Being unit with not so many mechanic components and hardly defect 5.Being unit which is convenient for cleaning without frequent needs to send for the work by repairman



After collecting some clues about the machine I continued asking if there were anything wrong with the machine. He said after a lubrication the machine would work for months. The most important thing, however, was to brush and keep molded characters clean at all times. This brush was provided in the middle of the typewriter. To clean the machine the roller must be removed and then unlocked with a wrench with the terminal, bring it up to clean dirt away from the characters. This could be accomplished easily and nothing was difficult about it. I asked him how long the machine had been used. He replied about one year and a half and boasting for hard work like his the machine was still function perfectly if his work was light or with less work it would seem that he could carry on for another 2 years without any repair. There might be an exception for machines which were stricken by many people, unfamiliar apprentices who did not know how to use it right in that case the machine would easily get often out of order e.g. broken spring with need to be sent to the English Dispensary with Dr. Hay as director for repair where the repair was rather costly. In this office there was an old machine which had bee purchased for almost 3 years second-hand with a few minor consonants missing e.g. tonal mark of Mai Toe and vowel of Sara Ah, but thatís it. So I continued asking him whereís the source of ink which was stricken to the paper. He said the ink ribbon slid to and for was hit to the full surface of the ribbon so it was very smooth. This ribbon if worked out daily one will last for only 2 months then the ink would fade and need replacement. But for use by a private individual this will last about a year. The ribbons were provided in two colors violet and green. Violet was used for copying, the green one was with black ink the type which was being used by us now. Between the two colors, itís dependent on which one people prefer. He then told me that if I were to use a typewriter I should be careful to stock an inventory of many ribbons otherwise if I run short itís very scarce in Bangkok. Like his boss for example he had to roam around asking to buy just like to buy a piece of previous stone. The use of this typewriter when you are skillful itís addicted like opium as one typewriter can replace many clerks. By the way during the currency of regular ribbons the price is for only 5 Baht but at the time of scarcity it would be sold up to 8 Baht. Even that some tricks were also played before giving it to you. If you were knowledgeable of English language then you could order directly itís then would cost you about 10 Salungs (quarter of one Baht) or some thing like that.



Upon getting all the details I asked was his work of striking the typewriter hard? He said yes. For hard work of all day will make you frail for quite sometime. Additionally, for continuous working hours the eyes become blurred. He told me that ďIf you have a typewriter donít allow it to be used by too many people, there were some people who just wanted to play with it. Also kids, they like it. So when not in use it should be kept locked, thatís probably the most save thing to do.



Source : Vachirayan Journal, May 1895



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